With this in mind, I emailed one of the administrators at the Council of Ex-Muslims Forum to ask his advice on how people like me - who have never been Muslims - can best support ex-Muslims and other victims of the more vicious doctrines of Islam, and oppose threats arising from Islam to secular values.
He wrote back to me very swiftly, and acknowledged the difficulty that can arise both from supporting ex-Muslims and from criticising Islam:
(I hope my distaste for organisations like the EDL goes without saying, but just in case; no, I absolutely do not want to ally myself with such groups.)
Having acknowledged the delicate balancing act, however, my correspondent went on to say the following, which I think is crucial:
On first reading my response to this was to think "I don't even have to be public and outspoken? What can that possibly achieve?"
But I've thought about it a little more since I received the email, and actually I think a very valid point is made. So often I say to religious people - most often to Catholics, but the principle can be generalised - that their personal acceptance of the fact that (for example) the use of condoms is beneficial in preventing the spread of HIV is meaningless if they continue to lend tacit support to the power base of the Catholic church. The Vatican is able to campaign against condom use in Africa and other places plagued by HIV because it is able to bring to bear the political weight of over a billion Catholics - if a significant number of those people stood up to oppose this monstrous policy (or, better yet, left the church - although I accept that this is not easily done), it could not continue.
The point is that numbers do matter.
I've written before on the duty I think atheists have to speak out against the evils of religion, and I don't think there's any excuse to shirk this duty when it comes to Islam - we must oppose such atrocities as "honour" killings, FGM, forced marriage, the oppression of women. We who have never been Muslims are in some senses better positioned to argue against Islam than those who have been because - generally speaking - the risks we take in doing so are less than those taken by former Muslims. Islam punishes apostasy harshly; the consequences of being known to have abandoned the faith range from ostracism and abuse to death. The worst I can reasonably expect to get for denouncing Islam as one of the greatest evils we face in this century is name-calling - mostly from others who have never been Muslims.
Well, I can live with being called an Islamophobe and I can even live with being called racist - if the alternative is to sit back and allow people who face far greater threats to stand alone. It's fairly clear why the accusations of bigotry flow so freely when Islam is criticised - they work. But ask yourself; when a Christian accuses you of being a bigot, of "persecuting" them when you oppose their (assumed) right to stop gay people marrying, do you accept the criticism and shut up? Does their accusation of bigotry prevent you from arguing against Christianity, or do you explain why you're not a bigot and keep arguing?
Why, then, does being called an Islamophobe shut you up? Why do you adopt the term and throw it at people like me? Would you call me a bigot, or culturally insensitive, when I tell Christians their religion doesn't give them the right to stop people getting married?
People who oppose Islam do so in the face of great adversity and even danger; to refuse to lend them your support out of fear of being called a nasty name is simply cowardice.